There is plenty to look at when reviewing individual cards.
In the RWS deck, the tiny details can be equally as
important as some of the main figures in the cards. Some
details, of course, are just art, but there are many that
are references to the esoteric meanings or implications of
the card itself.
What do we mean by tiny details? In this instance we are
talking about small images or symbols found in the RWS
deck that may not be readily seen with a quick or casual
glance at the card. Careful observation often yields an
important detail that may have a profound impact on the
reading, allowing new possibilities in interpretation and
problem-solving as an advisor.
Let's look at a few of these informative treasures found
on some of the cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.
These often represent the space where heaven and earth meet
and are ancient symbols of deity. Mountains suggest the goal
of spiritual transformation and quests to reach the place
where gods reside. They suggest that the path to transcendence
may not be smooth and is often challenging.
The flattened spaces in between mountains called valleys are
intentional contrasts to the peaks. You may find puddles of
water forming in these areas that ribbon their way through
the valleys. These are metaphors for the low points in life,
or going to places that are necessary as a background and
preparation for transcendent experience.
Water can be a symbol of the unconscious and is often
associated with feminine energy. Lakes and ponds in the
cards are like mirrors that reflect the light above, and
also like openings to the darkness beneath the surface. They
seem quiet and calm but carry an air of mystery. Lakes are
sometimes linked to mythical creatures, and may form a link
between imagination and reality.
If you look closely at the figure on the left of the Five of
Pentacles, you'll find a tiny bell around the figure's
neck. In medieval times, lepers were required to carry or
wear bells to warn of their presence. Interestingly, the
bell is also a symbol associated with the voice of intuition,
awakening both the senses and the spirit. Bells are
expressions of happiness but also of warning or protection.
Usually wrapped around the head, bandages suggest wounds or
injuries in the process of healing. A bandage may suggest
psychological wounding or hardships, and can also indicate
emotional hurt and vulnerability.
The boat had long been known as a symbol of transition and
metaphorical journeys through life. Boats carry people and
cargo, suggesting the experiences and things we carry on our
This unhurried creature featured on the Nine of Pentacles is
a creature with great survival skills, preferring to hide in
shaded or dark areas. The snail is self-sufficient, able to
survive alone, finding lush green plants or decaying
vegetation for nourishment. Its shell offers protection to
its soft body that is susceptible to harsh environments and
natural predators. The snail can the capacity to move
steadily forward toward a goal even when the going is slow.
It also suggests uncomfortable feelings.
A common reference to pregnancy and procreation, rabbits are
linked to abundance and rapid increase. The rabbit is found
in the landscape of the Queen of Pentacles. The rabbit has
also been associated with the moon and the goddess,
Aphrodite. It is also a symbol of good luck.
Want to know more about the details and symbolism in the
cards? Check out The Secret Language of Tarot.